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I’ll focus this week on a few of the disappointments, as I see them, of this legislative session. There were positives, of course: we passed a budget on time; I passed three bills out of the House, and two became law; there were other good things. But work in some areas came up short. These aren’t in any particular order, so here goes.
ROADS - We haven’t passed a road budget yet. It will be left for the last possible moment in the session on April 12. When things go to the deadline, we often end up with errors. The big hang up seems to be the method of funding bridges in Jefferson County.
METH - In the fight against meth labs, we punted. Some legislators claim we made a step forward in reducing the amount of pseudoephedrine (PSE) that you can buy. But we did nothing about smurfing (when a meth maker uses surrogates to buy PSE for them). We reduced the monthly purchase limit by 20 percent; that just means that, instead of using four smurfers, you need to recruit five. The good news is that you still don’t have to go to a doctor for your PSE; the bad news is that some are boasting about doing something about meth labs, but in fact we did nothing
PRO-LIFE - The House majority leadership made promises that they didn’t keep on a pro-life bill. It’s the same bill the House passed in 2006 by a vote of 87-11, which calls for a face-to-face interview prior to any medical procedure, including an abortion. (The 2006 bill didn’t become law because the Senate made amendments that the House refused.) The promises to bring the bill to the floor for a vote were made to Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz (among others), ironically in face-to-face meetings. The most disingenuous among the majority leadership seems to be Rep. Bob Damron (D-Nicholasville) the House Majority Caucus Chairman, who refused for several days to call the bill to the floor. And then time ran out.
FIRE DEPARTMENTS - I’d worked out a deal between the Fire Chiefs Association and the League of Cities for a fair way to deal with the debt of Fire Protection Districts when their territory is annexed by a city. The agreement (HB 423) was universally recognized as good public policy, and it solved a problem with current statutes, which many see as ambiguous. The bill passed unanimously out of committee and was headed for unanimous approval in the House. But the bill was pulled by… Rep. Bob Damron, for purely political reasons, as all parties acknowledge. I’m confident, however, that in the next legislative session the bill will be approved with a different author. Probably Rep. Damron.
FUNERAL HOMES - Lobbyists fought for a bad bill and it passed. I wrote two weeks ago about HB 429 that increased continuing education requirements for funeral directors and embalmers. The state board that governs funeral homes hired a lobbyist to help pass the bill, the primary purpose of which is to make people come to a convention. I worked against this bill, and contacted senators as it moved through that chamber. Senators Higdon and Hornback were with us, of course, but the lobbyists prevailed; the bill made it through on the last day. It’s interesting that the Senate passed HB 429 right after they voted to eliminate continuing education requirements for cosmetologists.
We return on April 12 to pass a road plan and consider any vetoes that Gov. Beshear may issue. (I should ask him to veto HB 429.) You can call me at home, or leave a message for me in Frankfort by calling 1-800-372-7181. I’m here to help.